Severn Valley Railway to convert diesel locomotive to run on hydrogen

A heritage railway has joined forces with boffins in Birmingham to work on a ground-breaking scheme to convert a diesel locomotive to run on hydrogen power.

Class 08 shunter, similar to the one being converted to hydrogen
Class 08 shunter, similar to the one being converted to hydrogen

Young volunteers are already at work at the Severn Valley Railway's diesel depot at Kidderminster on the engine of the future thanks to the tie up with the University of Birmingham and local start-up company, Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions.

Harrier HydroShunter project will see the UK’s first-ever conversion of a diesel locomotive to run on hydrogen power.

The volunteers are removing the existing diesel engine and generators and overhauling other components, as they prepare Class 08 shunter No 08635 to receive its new power system.

The hydrogen-battery hybrid traction system is being designed by the start-up company and will be made up of hydrogen cylinders, a hydrogen fuel cell stack and a hybrid battery.

Mike Ball, the Severn Valley Railway’s vice chairman, said: “We were delighted when the University of Birmingham asked us to get involved in this project.

"As a heritage railway, we’re actively looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and having a hydrogen-powered shunter will play a key part in that plan.


“The current preparation stage for the Harrier shunter is providing an excellent opportunity for some of our younger volunteers to put their skills to good use and their ability to plan and implement this task has been nothing short of amazing.

"They’re the volunteers of the future, working on a locomotive for the future.”

Alexander Burrows, director at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education, said: “Our team are pioneering the designs and opportunities to bring hydrogen technology to the UK railway.

"Following the success of our HydroFLEX project with Porterbrook that delivered the UK’s first mainline approved hydrogen train, we are thrilled to be working with the Severn Valley Railway and Vanguard to roll out the Harrier HydroShunter.

Charles Calvert, chief engineer at Vanguard Sustainable Transport Systems, said: "We have developed the HydroShunter to enable cost-effective retro-fitting of diesel locomotives with clean, modern hydrogen-battery traction systems.

“Using hydrogen produced from renewable electricity, the Harrier will be a clean and quiet loco that just happens to also be an innovation superstar at work on one of the UK’s leading heritage railways.”

Testing of the hydrogen-power shunter locomotive will take place at the Severn Valley Railway later this year.

Report by Sue Smith

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